Massonia pustulata - plant of the month Dec 2010
The genus Massonia is endemic to southern Africa. They inhabit areas that are hot and dry during the summer and are adapted to a mediterranean climate - winter growing and summer dormant. Massonia pustulata is native to Cape provinces and Namaqualand.
Due to its relatively small size, Massonia pustulata makes an excellent pot subject which I have found to be hardier with regard to temperature than many authorities suggest. Paul Cumbleton of the Alpine department, RHS Wisley garden has also found this to be true, growing a number of species there, under glass but unheated for a number of years.
The flowers are produced as sessile umbels and have stamens which are longer than the perianth, giving the flower head a 'shaving-brush' appearance (Massonia pustulata has the longest filaments of the more commonly grown species). The flowers can be creamy-white in some forms or a rather attractive pinkish colour in selected forms.
This species, although not alone in this feature, has the specific name 'pustulata' due to the high number of small swellings similar to blisters or pimples on the surface of the leaves.
There are also some attractive leaf forms in cultivation - the one shown ( below) has very dark leaves which are entirely dark purple when they first emerge, green tones only developing later as the leaf expands:
Cultivation is fairly straight-forward in a basic alpine mix which is not allowed to dry out too much during the active growing period. As can be seen from the top picture, off-sets are produced but the quickest way to increase this species is by seed which germinates freely and usually flowers in its third season.
A good tip is to make sure that at potting time the top dressing is level with the pot rim, this allows the leaves to lie flat on the surface, giving a naturalistic effect.